Life photographed at Europe's deepest point

April 14, 2011 By Joanne Rostron

( -- Aberdeen scientists have photographed for the first time fish and shrimps at Europe’s deepest point -- 5111 meters or 3.2 miles deep below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.

The University of Aberdeen scientists were part of a research cruise carrying out a survey for a KM3NeT consortium which is preparing to place a neutrino telescope at the bottom of the Med.

The telescope will comprise a large array of sensors connected with a cable to computers on shore. They will detect flashes of light produced in the deep sea by high energy neutrinos - tiny particles travelling at close to the speed of light - from distant objects in the Universe such as gamma ray bursters, supernovae and colliding stars.

The University’s Oceanlab is part of a team studying deep sea life that might affect the working of the telescope. The team is also interested in plugging in mini observatories onto the telescope infrastructure to study marine life.

Thomas Linley, Oceanlab research assistant, was aboard the cruise and sent a baited camera down into the Oinousse Pit - Europe’s deepest point, south west of the Greek town of Pylos.

He said: “It took over two hours for the camera to sink to the bottom and it was pretty nerve wracking as I had built the equipment at Oceanlab. The camera should withstand depths of 6,000 m but it had never been tested at this depths. Waiting for it to surface again felt like a very long time.”

Mr. Linley had 16 hours to wait before the camera was back on board.

“Until the camera came back I had no idea if we had captured anything but thankfully shrimp or Acanthephyra eximia arrived within the first few minutes and began to feed on the bait,” he said.

“About three hours later a was caught on film - the Mediterranean rat-tail or Coryphaenoides mediterraneus. We didn’t know it went to these depths and this was the first time this fish have been photographed at these depths.”

Most of the world’s deep seas are deep, dark and cold whereas the Med is deep, dark and warm. Food is scarce in the Mediterranean Sea and there are not many animals that can cope with such unusual conditions - high pressure, warm temperature and little food. The fish are much smaller than their Atlantic relatives but the really seem to thrive.

Mr. Linley added: “I was hopeful that we would see something because after years of probing the deepest points of the world’s oceans, Oceanlab scientists have yet to discover a dark depth without life.

“These animals may be pushed to their limit at this depth, but they still persist. Finding and then photographing them extends the known maximum depth of this fish and proves that another one of the world’s deepest places harbors life.”

Explore further: Scientists discover new species in one of world's deepest ocean trenches

Related Stories

New shrimp named after scientist

March 4, 2011

It’s a new species of shrimp and it’s been named Princaxelia jamiesoni after the University of Aberdeen scientist who discovered it in trenches at the bottom of the North West Pacific Ocean.

Rare lightshow seen in deep ocean

November 17, 2006

Rare footage of marine creatures putting on deep sea 'lightshows' on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean has been captured by scientists using the latest technology. So many animals were squirting luminescence into the water ...

Creatures from the deep exposed

March 11, 2011

An academic from the University of Plymouth has helped unravel the largely unexplored weird and wonderful world of deep-sea marine life.

Deep-sea fish stocks threatened

March 11, 2009

( -- Commercial fishing in the north-east Atlantic could be harming deep-sea fish populations a kilometre below the deepest reach of fishing trawlers, according to a 25-year study published on Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

October 22, 2017

Until recently, glaciers in the United States have been measured in two ways: placing stakes in the snow, as federal scientists have done each year since 1957 at South Cascade Glacier in Washington state; or tracking glacier ...

Carbon coating gives biochar its garden-greening power

October 20, 2017

For more than 100 years, biochar, a carbon-rich, charcoal-like substance made from oxygen-deprived plant or other organic matter, has both delighted and puzzled scientists. As a soil additive, biochar can store carbon and ...

Cool roofs have water saving benefits too

October 20, 2017

The energy and climate benefits of cool roofs have been well established: By reflecting rather than absorbing the sun's energy, light-colored roofs keep buildings, cities, and even the entire planet cooler. Now a new study ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.